This post should really be titled "The 6-months book launch plan," but today is September 6th (as I'm writing this), and I'm already one month late for TUBE launch on February 6th, 2018. Five months is not quite enough, and to blow your mind even more, it's a good idea to start promoting your upcoming book a year before the launch date (or, even better, the moment you start writing it—yes, you read that right). Alas, I don't have that time, so I'll squeeze it into five months and will make it happen even if I bleed out of my nose. (Once I set my mind to something, I don't give up until it's done. Stubborn to death.)
Before you read any further, know that I haven't properly launched a single book of mine, so this will be my first time. An experiment to learn from. A concoction of ideas and tips and tricks gathered from all over the sparkling internets, mixed up with my brains, and dumped here. I have heavily borrowed from:
- Jenny Blake's Book Marketing Spreadsheet
- Goodreads' Book Launch Case Study
- Lots of Seth Godin's books
- Derek Murphy's 10-step book launch plan
It's on my to-do list to write a launch plan for TUBE, so this post will be it. I'll be coming back to it to check off my to-dos and remember what I still need to complete. Bookmark it for yourself, to use it in the future too. (Scan the bolded parts for a faster read.)
5 months before publication
- Update your author presence EVERYWHERE. That means, your author photo, your bio, etc. On Amazon, on Goodreads, on your social media channels. Make sure it all matches. (No different pics in different places. No different bios. Make it all consistent.)
- Update your website. Re-brand it, if you need to (I'm doing it). Make sure all the information is up-to-date: your books, your contact page, etc. Is it easy for your readers to buy your books on your site? Test it. Can they find your book quickly? Test it. Ask your friends who have never been to your site to play with it. Big companies pay big money for this. Give them a free book as your thanks (and potentially earn a new loyal reader).
- Update and/or create book-specific pages online. For me it will be my new author Facebook page. Yes, this is big news. It's coming. We're working on it (well, my minions are—I only whip them on bare bottoms with stinging nettles to make them move faster).
- Set up a CRM system to capture all new reader contact information. If you're new to CRM, train yourself to use it. Check out Batchbook (I use it, and it's awesome, perfect for small businesses) and ActiveCampaign (I haven't used it, but I heard great things about it—seems it's geared toward bigger business with bigger budgets and teams).
- Budget for giveaways. I'm not a numbers person either, so don't moan. I made myself learn Quickbooks (took me a week) and Mint, and I have set up budgets for giveaways so I don't blow my cashflow and have to sell my kidneys. How many copies will you give away? How many will you sell? Basically, how large will your first printing be?
- Update email-gathering tools. Building your newsletter list is your task number one. So make a pop-up on your site (I already did that with Sumo) and make it for people easy to find the link to your newsletter. Better yet, have the whole landing page one big CTA (Call To Action) and one place to put in their name to subscribe to your glorious news. And yes, I'm working on it. Not quite there yet.
- Finalize cover design (if you haven't already). We're changing TUBE cover, so that's why it's on my task list. Also, we'll be adding select beta reader quotes on the back cover, so if you haven't sent me your feedback yet, HURRY. You might just make it.
- Make your book available for pre-order EVERYWHERE (your site, Amazon, Goodreads so people can add it to their bookshelves, etc.). TUBE was on my site on pre-order for over two years (takes me seconds to do it), but I haven't put it up on Amazon because the cover wasn't final. See the bottleneck here? Make sure you don't repeat my mistake.
- Hire interns. You will need help with this. So write up job descriptions and hire folks to help you. Either for cash or, preferably, in exchange for your teaching/mentoring time (put a dollar value on your time, and make sure you're giving a fair barter to those whom you hire).
- Design print materials. You'll need these to give away together with your books. Bookmarks (my case). Business cards (with your book cover). Post cards. Thank You cards (to send to beta readers and bloggers/reviewers/anyone who helps you launch). Stamps. Decide what your list of materials will be, but do it NOW.
4 months before publication
- Create a promo kit for bloggers/friends/fans. People are busy. Make it easy for them to spread the word. Write up emails people can forward to friends. Also, sample tweets, sample Facebook posts, graphics to share, etc. It'll pay off. You'll see.
- Contact bloggers/friends/fans to review your book. It can be someone you've asked before, or someone new. Or even your friends who simply offer to post a review on their Facebook page. No matter who it is, do this now, because, again, people are busy. By the time they get back to you, it'll be closer to 3 months before publication.
- Contact bloggers to do a guest post/interview/podcast/etc. An interview with an author is a great way for you to talk about your upcoming book and to get more interested readers. So make those connections early, then ask when it's time.
- Contact the bookstore where you want to have the launch party. For me it's Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. I'd contact them now, but I don't have the cover ready. Damn. The event spots at bookstores fill up quickly, so four months might not be early enough. Contact your local bookstore as early as you can.
- Set up the event page for the launch party. I'll be doing it on Facebook. But you can use whatever—lots of other tools out there. The event page is a place where you'll send folks who want to come help you launch your book to the sky. (I tried Goodreads event invites in the past, and they never worked for me. Just as a side note.)
- Plan catering for the launch party. I'll be ordering Russian piroshki for mine. Though at this point I'll be figuring out the budget, the amount of food and all that based on how many people are interested in coming. So hopefully I can afford it.
- Do creative, unconventional book-review projects that you can afford. Let's say you have friends who are filmmakers. Ask them to do a book trailer video. Or maybe your fans want to do it. Or maybe you have friends who are musicians (can they write a song?), painters (can they do a painting?), dancers (can they create a dance?), and so on. Ask them to read your book and make art based on it, then share the hell out of it, and ask them to share it too.
- Order print materials. You need to make sure they look good in printed form—your swag. What if you need to make changes? Do them NOW. You still have time.
- Plan a book tour. Can you afford to go places? I can't, so this is going to be something I'll do with my next book, but if you can, now is the good time to plan it. Actually, it might be too late. I'd say, plan it as early as you can. Ask your readers. Can you crash on their couches? Can they host you for a book reading? Get creative. People love to help.
- Write bookstore/launch party speech. You can use this once (for your launch party) or several times (if you do go on tour). It doesn't have to be an essay. Just do a few talking points, but think what it is you want to talk about. Then practice in front of the mirror until you feel comfortable with it. Read how Tim Ferris preps for public speaking and use his tricks or some up with your own.
3 months before publication
- Order a box of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to give away as gifts to beta readers, to Goodreads giveaway winners, and to social media giveaway winners. This is the first part of your giveaway run. The books don't have to be perfect (traditionally published authors at this stage give away galleys), and you might still make changes. Actually, people might point out mistakes to you, so make sure you note them. But do it now, because changes take time (and always longer than you think).
- Share images of your new books like crazy. Once you get that box of books, take pictures, selfies, portraits of your books on top of your cat, your dog, your dead neighbor. Whatever communicates your excitement best, do it. The cover image of your book must start making rounds. This will help with awareness, community (you want people commenting on your pictures as a way to start talking to one another), anticipation, and conversation. Word travels. Word-of-mouth is the best selling tool you could ever wish for.
- Create the first giveaway on Goodreads. You can do it elsewhere (I do random ones on Twitter and Facebook), but I love the way Goodreads handles it for you, selects the winners for you, and all that. Make this small (you'll do a larger one next month). This will be a test and an anticipation building trick, to make everyone else interested. "Hey, what is it they're all reading? I want to read it too!"
- Start book discussions online. Some people who will receive your books will read them quickly. Make it easy for them to discuss your book online. Where can they talk about it? I think for me it'll be my new Facebook page. Maybe some other places too (not sure yet where else I can do this).
- Ship books to winners. Ask them to post pictures and tag you (or even come up with a hashtag for them to use). This won't work with the Goodreads giveaway—you can't contact winners or ask them for anything—you're sending books out to them in good faith that they'll go through and review your book. They owe you nothing. But you can do this if you do small giveaways on social media and give gifts to your beta readers. (I recently blogged about my beta reading process—I send out ARCs to all who send me beta feedback.) Repost all those pictures. This is important. It builds social proof. "If they read it and liked it, I might like it too!"
2 months before publication
- Order the second (larger) box of books for giveaways. This box should have the corrected copies (if there were any changes to make). These can go out to folks who have pre-ordered your books in advance. I have a lot of you who did that with TUBE, so once I have copies that look beautiful, they'll go to you early—before anyone else can buy them.
- Talk, talk, talk about your book everywhere. Start sharing stories of the creation of your latest masterpiece. If you have a blog, write posts that reveal some sneak peeks into the opening of the book (post a sample chapter), or the process of how you wrote it. Basically, do what movie studios do. Instead of the trailer (unless you have one), share snippets of the story. Instead of director interviews, share how you came up with the story, how long it took you to write it, etc. Can you get on a local radio show? On TV? Do a public reading at your local library or bookstore? Ask every friend you have, and you'll find venues willing to host you (or at least give you a try).
- Collect quotes from reviews. This is the time when the first wave of reviews should hit. Make sure to collect quotes from them (yeah, I know, it'll require you to read them—bite the bullet and do it) for future highlighting in your blog posts, social media posts, or even the inclusion on the back cover. I don't do paid reviews (you can pay Kirkus Reviews, for example), so I can't tell you when that would fall into the launch schedule, but it's something you might want to look into, if you have the budget. Now is the time to start sharing the heavyweights—reviews by influencers or big names (maybe your writerly friends can review it for you?).
- Create book teasers. This is for your next month, when you'll need to share a bit of your book daily. Make graphics with quotes from your book (or quotes from reviews). Record videos of you reading snippets from your book. Whatever you can imagine, do it. Nothing is too silly. Share your excitement!
- Send out free ebooks in exchange for reviews. Create a form on your site that offers a free ebook in exchange for an email and a review. Send out as many as you can. (In my case, all my ebooks are already free, so I have a form for paperback review requests, where I ask for a link to a previous review of one of my books, since I don't want to send paperbacks out blindly to people who won't go through on their end of the bargain—it happened before). Alternatively, send out an offer of the free ebook for review to your newsletter or blog subscribers. Ask them to help you spread the word.
1 month before publication
- Share a teaser about your book daily. This is like the candy-countdown to Christmas. You know those Christmas calendars with a bit of chocolate behind each day? That's what you're doing. So, post those graphics with quotes on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Post those videos you recorded. Whatever you did, now is time to share it like you're obsessed. And you are, right? Aren't you over-excited by this time? You should be. Excitement is infectious. Share it, and people will get excited too.
- Plan the newsletter launch campaign (more info on this below). This will be the crest of your wave, the climax of your launch story. The very last week before publication you'll need to send out newsletters (and share news on social media) that build to the actual launch day in a manner of an avalanche. I'll talk more about it below. Write out all the parts of it and make sure you have no mistakes and the content is solid. You might need to record more videos or create more graphics for this, if you feel like it. Some authors share pictures of actors they picked, if their book could be turned into a movie. Etc.
- Talk to your readers. If you haven't been as responsive before (responding to comments on social media), CRANK IT UP. Actively reply to every comment you can, and try to capture everyone who is interested in your new book in your CRM system. Set yourself reminders to follow up. These are your potential future sales. Anyone who talks to you will ultimately buy a book from you if you handle the conversation right. This is the time to rely heavily on the help of your interns as you won't be able to do it alone. You'll die.
- Send Thank You cards to beta readers. Or anyone else who helped you with a review, or with a Facebook post about your book, etc. These cards should feature the cover of your book (or include a bookmark with the cover in each card). And in these cards you can ask people who else might be interested in your book, and offer to send packages of bookmarks to give away (with your book cover), and any other swag you can afford to send. Get all the help you can get.
- Do the second giveaway EVERYWHERE. These are final copies (final cover, all mistakes corrected, etc). Mostly this is for Goodreads, to generate the second wave of reviews, but also for your social media and your newsletter list, and anyone who you think is an influencer in your community and could help you spread the word.
2 weeks before publication
- Collaborate with other writers or artists. This is something I plan to do from now on. For example, I'll include a card with the book that has free download codes for music by a musician I know. Or with a print of a painting by a painter I know. Share your friends' art in conjunction with your book and tell everyone what a special deal they get when they get the book once it launches.
- Run Amazon, Facebook, Instagram ads. If you have the budget for them (I don't know if I will), do Amazon ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, etc. The goal here is to increase the visibility of your book. If you look up and read this plan from the beginning, you'll see how I increase it up gradually, so it reaches its peak on the launch date. People notice something only after you show it to them 7 times. This is just a basic statistic I read in some marketing book. So you have to run ads or post pictures of your book for people to finally notice it (after they've seen it 7 times in different places). Do it.
- Advertise on book promo sites. Do the whole host of them. I heard great things about Bookbub, though I haven't used them yet. There are many others. Again, this costs money. If you can't afford it, ask on social media. Literally, ask your readers to be your talking book promoters. Ask them to share, share, share, and make it easy for them. Give them those materials you prepared earlier: emails to forward, tweets and Facebook posts to share, graphics to post, etc. Word-of-mouth generated from this might actually get you more sales than the blind promos (of course, you'll be better off if you already have a community to ask—so start working on that NOW).
- Share your readers' feedback/images/reviews/pictures. Make your beta readers the stars of the show. Make your book winners the stars of the show. This is critical time to cement social proof. The more you can share, the more people will be interested. We're like sheep, really. If everyone is reading a book, we want to give it a try JUST BECAUSE (I know I've read many books for that reason, not all of them till the end, but I did buy them and try them because everyone else was reading them).
- Ask readers to subscribe to your newsletter for the special 1-week-long series of exciting secret information about your book available only to subscribers. This is a way to build scarcity. You want scarcity. You want people who join your newsletter to feel special. So this is when you ask. Next come the steps of how actually to do it.
1 week before publication
- Send out a newsletter with Chapter 1. If you have already shared your first chapter elsewhere before, include Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 here. I will combine the release of it in my newsletter as linked to the release of the first chapters on Wattpad. I have lots of loyal readers there, so I'll post a free chapter and link to it in my newsletter, to drive more readers to Wattpad. If you don't want to share your chapters for free on Wattpad, simply share them on your blog as posts.
- Share, share, share quotes from the first chapter. Ask people to subscribe to your newsletter to read the chapters and to spread the word. Share their comments, their reactions. EVERYTHING. And always, always thank them.
- Don't forget to breathe, eat, and sleep. This week is crunch time. Take care of yourself so you don't break down by the time launch day arrives. Remember, if you're hosting your launch party on the day of the launch (my case), you'll have to be on your feet in front of people, talking, smiling, performing, signing books, etc. You want to be alive for that, feeling your best. You don't want to botch it.
3 days before publication
- Send out a newsletter with Chapters 2, 3. Build momentum. Give more with each newsletter, to make people want to read more. Add snippets of how you wrote those chapters, maybe include deleted bits, to show your process.
- Again, share quotes from these chapters. Build the progression of the story as you have built it in your book. Make people want to find out more.
- Share (if you haven't already) links to interviews with you, to the best reviews you liked, to guest blog posts. Anything that can generate more interest, share it now. Perhaps you've saved some juicy bits for later. Now is the time to let people in on them. You have only 3 days left!
1 day before publication
- Send out a newsletter with Chapters 4, 5, 6. Your big moment is about to come. Give to your readers even more momentum. Ask them to read, comment, share, post pictures—help you spread the word in any way they can.
- BREATHE. Tomorrow is the big day. Step away from the screen (or multiple screens) to collect yourself for tomorrow.
The day of publication
- ASK FOR THE SALE! Send out the newsletter with Chapters 7, 8, 9, 10—maybe even 11 and 12—depending on how long your Act 1 is. TUBE's Act 1 is exactly 10 chapters. The goal is to share the complete Act 1. You want people to read it, get hooked, and want to read the book to the end. This is when you ask them to buy it, for themselves and for their friends and for their local library, and so on. By now you should've built enough anticipation and given away enough free content to have people not even think when they hit that BUY NOW button. It's critical to ask, and it's critical to ask right. Ask boldly. Ask with confidence. Ask to help you make your book a bestseller, and people will do it. It's human nature. We all want to help each other, once we get past our fears. By now you should've eliminated most of their fears with all your sharing, so it'd be natural for people to buy. This day will either make of break your book. It's like with any movie release and its first weekend. So throw all you've got into this day. You can rest later.
- Don't be afraid to scream about your book today from every rooftop. This is the day to do it. Share the birth of your book all day long, everywhere. If you're doing the launch party today, ask people to take videos of you, pictures of you, and share them. Come up with a hashtag, either one of your name or the book title, or both, so people can find those posts. The more you share, and the more your readers share, the more interest you will generate (and the smaller your audience is, the more you'll need to share).
- CELEBRATE! You worked hard. You were building up to this moment for many months (and many long workdays and sleepless nights). Don't forget to celebrate your big achievement, whatever it means to you. Maybe it'll mean to take one hour off all this excitement, go on a walk and just gaze at the sky, alone. I think this is what I'll do. Just to feel that I did it. To accept it. To own it. Then get back to work.
1 week after publication
- Follow up on your promises. You've probably made many. Send out more Thank You cards, reminders to people to check out your book (those you made for yourself in your CRM system), and so on. Tie up any loose ends and thank everyone profusely, everyone who helped you make it happen. If you can, send every person some kind of a gift and ask them (this is important!) if they'd like to help you with your next book launch. Then make yourself a reminder to contact these people in the future. This is your street team. Your treasure. Make them feel loved, and they'll move even bigger mountains for you the second time around.
- Remind people to review the new book they bought. You have to make the push for reviews to come in. If they cross a certain number (I'll have to research this better, to give you details), they'll stick in the ranks on Amazon and in other places. Drive that number up. Ask, ask, ask. This first week is critical to keep the momentum going. If it tanks, your book will break, and it will be nearly impossible to drag it back up and out of obscurity (I learned this the hard way).
- Don't obsess over your sales. The worst you can do to yourself is sit every day in front of your laptop and refresh your browser every few minutes for updates on sales data. You can drive yourself crazy doing it. You've done all you could. Give yourself credit, and remember, so much of this is pure luck and is so far out of your control, obsess or not, you'll hardly know the true reasons behind the fluctuations of your sales. Let it go. Instead, focus on writing your next book.
1 month after publication
- Gather your wits. The best (or the worst) is over. By now, if you have generated enough buzz, your book is either selling well or not selling at all. Don't despair if it's the latter case. You did all you could. Learn from it and do better next time. Also, sales ranks are wonky. I'll repeat once more, DON'T OBSESS OVER THEM. There are weird algorithms you have no control over that may be at play here. Get cranking on that next book, because, guess what's next on your task list?
- Get ready for the next launch. That's right. Start writing your next book, and start promoting it THE DAY YOU START IT. Talk about it on social media, on your blog, in your newsletter. It'll be helpful if you know the title of it already. Make it memorable, and people will share it. Or tell them the idea you have and listen to how they talk about it. They might as well give you a brilliant title. Grab it and run with it, unless you're confident you can come up with something better.
- Schedule your next book launch and set yourself a deadline to finish your manuscript on time. Now you're in business. In traditional publishing, from what I hear, that's what you'd have to do. Stick to a schedule. So create it for yourself if you self-publish and STICK TO IT. Nothing like deadlines to motivate you. And sales to generate. The more books you write and launch, the better you'll get at it, the more sales you'll make, the faster you'll turn around new books. Soon you'll be well on your way to your goal, whatever that is (for me it's to make millions so I can buy my own planet and sit there on my own throne like a queen, with a warm pig under my feet, a bear by my side, in my hands a pot of borscht and a bottle of vodka—you're all invited to my queendom, as long as you pledge me your kidneys—I love me kidneys for breakfast, still steaming with the warmth of your dying breath...).
(If you've got more tips on launching books, don't be a grumpy curmudgeon. SHARE BELOW.)